Majority of physicians worried signs of addiction missed amid pandemic, report finds

Two-thirds of physicians worried they missed signs of addiction among one or more of their patients during the pandemic, a report published Nov. 15 by Quest Diagnostics found. 

Researchers surveyed 505 U.S. primary care physicians in August 2021 and used insights from nearly 5 million de-identified laboratory tests performed by Quest Diagnostics between 2011 and 2020 for patients throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Key findings: 

  • Ninety-four percent of primary care physicians reported seeing more patients experiencing stress, anxiety or other mental health issues because of the pandemic and fear a correlation between rising mental health issues and prescription drug misuse.

  • Ninety-eight percent of physicians reported concerns about misuse of controlled substances in general compared to 75 percent reporting concern of opioid misuse.

  • Seventy-five percent of physicians believe telehealth visits limit the ability to determine if patients are at risk for or are already misusing prescription drugs.

  • Eighty-seven percent of physicians said they prescribed gabapentin for chronic pain in the past 6 months with 78 percent fearing patients will turn to illicit fentanyl.

  • Nearly 9 in 10 physicians reported better guidelines would help ensure that clinical drug testing is used equitably with 69 percent reporting needing more tools to be able to address racial/ethnic health disparities in prescription drug addiction management.

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